16 October 2009, Latest news
Friday is World Food Day. It's a UN initiative to raise global awareness about food security for the world's poorest.
And the issue of global hunger has never been more urgent. For the first time in history, more than one billion people live in hunger.
Each day 25,000 people starve to death or die from an illness caused by hunger. Shockingly, many of those who actually produce the food have been hit the hardest. Three-quarters of the world's hungry live in rural areas, of whom the overwhelming majority are farmers in poor countries.
While environmental catastrophes such as drought exacerbate the plight of the rural poor, the main causes of poverty and hunger in the developing world are man-made.
The economic hardship facing many farmers can be attributed to the free trade policy prescriptions championed by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. Even though they are unaccountable to the broader international community, these institutions wield enormous influence over the agricultural policies of developing nations.
To drive forward their strategy of "trade-based food security," the IMF and WTO have forced developing nations to open up their markets to food imports and reorient their economies towards an export-based system.
Exposed to direct competition from giant agribusiness, small farmers in the global south have struggled to stay afloat. And under the trade terms established by the WTO, agribusiness firms are increasingly able to sell their products to consumers in developing nations at a low price, undercutting small-scale farmers who rely on domestic markets.
As well as being thrust into competition with large farming firms, poor farmers are being squeezed by corporate sales practices. When farmers in the global south purchase seeds developed by corporations, they are often forced to sign a contract obliging them to buy fertiliser from the same firm, often at an inflated price.
Farmers have little choice but to buy crop products offered by Western firms. Under intellectual property rules written by the WTO, corporations now own 98 per cent of the patents covering vital farming inputs. Armed with patents for a vast array of seeds, livestock breeds and other essential organisms, agribusiness can dictate the terms under which local communities grow their food.
The most harmful range of farming products currently on the market are genetically modified (GM) crops. Promoted by agribusiness as a silver bullet in the fight against global hunger, GM crops are in fact more expensive to grow and produce poorer yields. Despite the harm these crops can cause, the GM revolution has gained momentum in recent years, leading to a massive boom for firms like Monsanto and Syngenta.
Although the export-based system of food production has kept millions of small farmers in poverty, world leaders have refused to try a different model. Instead, governments have invested heavily in projects that seek to train small farmers in poor countries as entrepreneurs to compete in the global marketplace.
Yet an alternative to the current approach is taking root. Across the developing world, grass-roots organisations are challenging corporate farming practices and the model of production for export.
Based on the principle of local control over resources, the food sovereignty movement prioritises the needs of small-scale farmers over the profits of big business. This new concept recognises that the key to fighting global poverty lies in community ownership, sustainable agricultural policies and workers' rights.
From Sri Lanka to South Africa, Brazil to Mozambique, these local organisations - many of them partners of War on Want - are successfully building communities of self-sufficient farmers.
A leading voice in the food sovereignty movement is La Via Campesina. With members across 56 countries on five continents, it represents millions of small farmers and gives them a political platform to challenge the corporate model for farming.
By promoting local alternatives such as community markets and farming collectives, these groups of small farmers are able to protect their livelihoods from the impossible demands of a world market whose rules are stacked against them.
They are also promoting organic methods as an alternative to destructive corporate farming products like GM crops.
Taken together, these measures will help define food as a resource to be owned and shared locally - and not as a commodity to be traded and profited from on the global market.
Jesse Lerner-Kinglake is Communications Officer at War on Want.
14 October 2009, Latest newsThanks to your efforts, we have sent Britain's worst fashion companies a strong message - more than 24,000 of them, in fact. And their reaction has shown just what a difference you can make.
Britain's most profitable fashion companies have arrogantly ignored campaigns demanding that they stop exploiting the workers who make their clothes. Companies that didn't respond to Labour Behind the Label's questions in their report have been forced to answer due to your emails.
As 24,000 emails landed in the inboxes of the 15 bosses that were identified as the worst abusers of sweatshop labour, some of them finally gave in and issued a reply to the thousands of you who have written to them this week. John Lewis, Alexon and BHS have now at least acknowledged an issue that they had hoped would just go away - for the past four years they refused to even engage with Labour Behind the Label's investigation.
It proves that campaigning works. But there's a lot more we need to do. Many of these companies are still ignoring us, and even those who are not are still far from taking the action needed to actually solve the problem. So if you haven't emailed them yet, do so now. And if you have - take two minutes to tell your friends, family and colleagues to do the same. Because we know it works.Add Comment
08 October 2009, Latest newsThe pace of your work is unbelievable. Following the launch of Let's Clean Up Fashion 2009, we asked people to send emails to the CEOs of top fashion brands expressing outrage over their failure to ensure a living wage for their workers. It's been just 24 hours, but the heads of Asda, River Island, Matalan and other leading shops have been flooded with over 10,000 emails. Your response has been extraordinary - and it will make a difference.
We're doing our part. It's time they did theirs. But we need to keep the pressure on. If you haven't sent a letter to a CEO, do so now. And if you have, get your friends and family to participate.Add Comment
08 October 2009, Previous events
On Thursday 8 October, War on Want and students from Goldsmiths College organised a demonstration outside the Israeli Embassy in London demanding that Muhammad Othman be freed immediately.
08 October 2009, Latest news
The last year has seen a huge shift in popular support for the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns against Israel. Yasmin Khan from War on Want explores what this campaign means and why it could be the most powerful strategy yet to bring peace and justice to the Middle East.Add Comment
07 October 2009, Previous events
On Tuesday 6 October, as Tesco announced its latest half-year profits of £1.4 billion, campaigners demonstrated outside the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), calling on the government to introduce a supermarket watchdog.Add Comment
06 October 2009, Latest newsOverseas garment workers supplying UK shops have long been earning below a living wage. But what have British retailers done to improve conditions? Next to nothing, according to a new report from War on Want and Labour Behind the Label. Let's Clean Up Fashion documents how top UK fashion brands have trapped overseas garment workers in poverty - and have no coherent plans to address the situation. Read more about the report in a feature piece in The Guardian.
You know the shops that have been named. We've all been to Asda, tried on a top at French Connection or browsed the aisles at River Island. They're part of an industry that amasses more than £36 billion annually. But we cannot let them continue to get away with paying workers less than $2 a day.
We have the email addresses of the CEOs of the 15 worst offenders. Take action with us by writing them now to demand immediate steps for a living wage.Add Comment
06 October 2009, Press releases
NEWS HOOK: Wednesday, 7 October 2009 World Decent Work Day
Clothes retailers head factory shame list
Asda and Matalan are today named as among the worst British retailers for trapping their overseas garment workers in poverty.
This accusation comes in a new report that cites their lack of any coherent strategy to ensure a living wage for people who make their clothes abroad.
The report (attached) claims there is no coherent strategy to ensure a living wage for workers making clothes for Asda and Matalan stores.
It also criticises nine other retailers for their failure to undertake any real work towards a decent wage - Bhs, Clarks, Debenhams, French Connection, John Lewis, River Island, Sainsbury's, Tesco and the Arcadia Group, which includes Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Miss Selfridge, Topman, Topshop and Wallis.
The report - Let's Clean Up Fashion - is being launched today by campaign group Labour Behind the Label and anti-poverty charity War on Want.
It coincides with World Decent Work Day and a new campaign by trade unions and labour rights groups which demands a minimum living wage for all garment producing countries in Asia.
The campaign for an Asian floor wage seeks the same living wage throughout Asia to stop retailers driving down pay.
Research by War on Want found workers making clothes for Asda, Tesco and Primark in Bangladesh earned as little as 7p an hour for up to 80-hour weeks.
The new Let's Clean Up Fashion study shows that retailers taking some action to end poverty pay are Gap, Next, New Look and Monsoon Accessorize.
But the report says that none of the 25 UK high street brands yet pays workers a living wage.
Its author, Anna McMullen, from Labour Behind the Label, said: "Many companies fail to admit that the prices they place on clothing and their own buying practices are to blame for the poverty experienced by those who make our clothes. Global buyers have the power to threaten to relocate production in the search for ever-lower prices. The downward pressure on prices lead to poor wages and keeps garment workers in poverty."
Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "Exploitation is still rife in the fashion industry, and our high street companies are responsible for it. There needs to be proper regulation to ensure fair treatment for the workers who produce our clothes. The British government must act now to end this abuse."
War on Want has launched the biggest-ever campaign to win a living wage for overseas garment workers.
The new Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops drive aims to collect 50,000 names calling on British prime minister Gordon Brown to regulate the industry.
It has brought support from public figures such as Strictly Come Dancing star Jo Wood, pop singer Little Boots, actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Ashley Jensen, designer Betty Jackson and comedians Jo Brand and Francesca Martinez.
People can add their names on the campaign's website at http://www.lovefashionhatesweatshops.org
Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728
Anna McMullen, the report's author at Labour Behind the Label (+44) (0)7786 832035
06 October 2009, Press releasesNEWS HOOKS
Tesco announces quarterly results.
Government has less than 30 days to respond to the Competition Commission's recommendation for a supermarket ombudsman.
WHEN? 9.30 BST, Tuesday 6 October 2009
WHERE? Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS), 1 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0ET
WHAT? Campaigners representing a broad coalition of international development and environmental NGOs, including War on Want, Friends of the Earth, ActionAid, and Traidcraft are targeting the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills. They are calling on the Secretary of State for Business, Lord Mandelson, to back the creation of a supermarket ombudsman that will protect suppliers from damaging trading practices, both at home and overseas.
HOW? Campaigners dressed as Tesco and Asda chiefs will stage a tug of war with gagged and bound farmers in the middle to show how suppliers in the UK and overseas are being squeezed by the unfair practices of our supermarkets.
Farmers - gagged and bound by supermarkets bullies - tell Mandelson: ‘Supermarket watchdog needed now!'
Consumer support for a supermarket watchdog culminates today as campaigners gather outside the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills in London. Over 60,000 people have taken action to support better supermarket regulation and campaigners will today hand in the latest 4,000 action cards calling on Lord Mandelson to establish a watchdog to stop supermarkets bullying their suppliers.
Time is running out for Lord Mandelson to take a public stance on the watchdog, with less than 30 days remaining before the deadline for government to respond passes.
The action takes place on the day that Tesco releases its latest half-year sales figures. Last year the retail giant made record profits of more than £3 billion, yet continues to squeeze its suppliers with devastating impacts on farmers and workers both in the UK and overseas.
In April 2008, following a major two-year inquiry, the Competition Commission recommended an enhanced Code of Practice for supermarkets policed by an ombudsman to prevent the ‘transfer of excessive risk and unexpected costs' on to suppliers which, the Commission found, would reduce quality and choice for the nation's shoppers if left unchecked .
Major supermarkets including Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons rejected the opportunity to voluntarily sign up to an ombudsman. Now the decision is in the hands of the government.
A recent YouGov poll  shows that eight out of 10 shoppers support a supermarket watchdog, while over 180 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion backing the measure . The Liberal Democrats endorsed the creation of an ombudsman at their party conference. Opposition leader David Cameron has also signalled his support for a watchdog, as has the Minister of State for Food, Farming and Environment, Jim Fitzpatrick.
Simon McRae, Senior Campaigns Officer at War on Want said: "Supermarkets in the UK are shamelessly opposing an independent watchdog that would prevent them bullying suppliers and investigate claims of abuse. The ball is now firmly in the Secretary of State's court to take on the supermarkets and back a watchdog."
Camilla Porter, Campaigns Manager at Traidcraft said: "This is the third inquiry into the groceries market in eight years which has found that supermarkets abuse their market position and suppliers and workers suffer as a result. The government should now follow the Competition Commission's recommendation and establish an ombudsman."
Helen Rimmer, Campaigner at Friends of the Earth said: "UK farmers are being gagged and bound by the supermarkets who bully them into submission and blacklist those that speak out. With more than 4,000 British farming jobs lost in each year, we urgently need a watchdog to protect farmers, the environment and rural communities."
Dominic Eagleton, Policy Officer at ActionAid said: "Supermarket practices result in a perverse transfer of wealth from farmers and workers in poor countries to retailers in the UK. The ombudsman is a sensible response to this problem, but the question still remains - will Lord Mandelson side with poor producers and British shoppers, or cave in to the supermarket giants?"
NOTES TO EDITORS:
- Simon McRae, War on Want Senior Campaigner 07779146043
- Seb Klier, War on Want Campaigner 07969791949
- Helen Rimmer, Food Campaigner. Friends of the Earth 07940006783
- Camilla Porter, Campaigns Manager, Traidcraft 07810678828
- Dominic Eagleton, Policy Officer, ActionAid 07796683205
1. The final report from the Competition Commission on the Groceries market can be found here: www.competition-commission.org.uk/rep_pub/reports/2008/fulltext/538.pdf
3. EDM 560 for a grocery market Ombudsman has been signed by 183 MPs. edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=37589&SESSION=899Add Comment
04 October 2009, Latest newsAfter reading online recaps of the latest exhibitions, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the industry, shaken by the global meltdown, has only recently discovered the importance of shaving costs.
The truth is that the fashion industry has long been scaling back costs by exploiting workers at the bottom of the supply chain. To increase their profits, top clothing brands exert pressure on overseas suppliers to produce more clothing for the same price or less. This pinch on suppliers is passed on to workers, who are forced into longer hours for shockingly low wages.
We applaud the industry's embrace of recycled clothing and other eco-friendly initiatives that save money. But these efforts must not obscure the grim fact of sweatshops, and the harmful business practices of clothing companies that have made them a reality.
To learn more about how the business practices of top brands affect workers at the very bottom of supply chain, check out both of our Fashion Victims reports.Add Comment
30 September 2009, Latest newsTonight, BBC 3 will air "Kids for Sale: Stacey Dooley Investigates", a two-part programme by the anti-sweatshop campaigner that looks into the issue of child labour.
Stacey Dooley, who made a name for herself with the acclaimed "Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts" series, is a supporter of Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops. At the launch of the LFHS campaign, the TV campaigner spoke about the importance of signing our call for an end to sweatshops.Add Comment
30 September 2009, Latest news
War on Want has expressed grave concern over the recent attacks by armed assailants against shack dwellers residing in informal settlements in Durban.
According to reports from Abahlali baseMjondolo, a non-violent community-based advocacy group and a War on Want partner organisation, on 26 September a violent mob of 30-40 men wielding knives and guns broke into the homes of people living in the Kennedy Road settlement. The assailants proceeded to burn and destroy their shacks, many of which belonged to members of the Kennedy Road Development Committee, a group affiliated to Abahlali baseMjondolo.
An unknown number of people have been killed and seriously injured in the violence, and hundreds of families who fled the scene have lost their homes and possessions. Abahlali baseMjondolo has indicated that local police forces failed to intervene in defence of the shack dwellers. It has also been reported that some local representatives of the ANC supported the attacks.
War on Want is calling for an immediate end to the violence at Kennedy Road. It also demands an immediate investigation into those who instigated the hostilities, as well as into the reports of police failure to defend residents' lives and properties.
We express our solidarity with Abahlali baseMjondolo and all those committed to peaceful, democratic and inclusive community action to improve the living conditions of South Africa's shack dwellers.
28 September 2009, Latest newsProving that sweatshops don't just exist in the developing world, earlier this month UK authorities carried out a raid on a sweatshop in London's East End. At least 35 workers were found on site sewing garments for Dila Limited, which is a supplier for the high street chain Jane Norman. Though the conditions facing workers in London differ greatly from those in places like Dhaka, the raid serves as a reminder of how this issue is truly universal.
This case also shows the importance of labour regulations and proper vetting of suppliers. If we can't hold shops accountable for failing to check the labour standards of factories in the UK, how can we expect them to take seriously the abuses occurring in far off places like Bangladesh?
Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops focuses mostly on how supply chains cross borders. But the campaign's broader goal is to eliminate sweatshops wherever they exist.
Ambitious? Absolutely. But it's also necessary - and it can be done if we get the general public behind us by signing our call.Add Comment
25 September 2009, Press releasesCharity calls for immediate release of Palestinian campaigner
The UK human rights charity War on Want has today called on the Israeli authorities to immediately release Mohammad Othman, a prominent Palestinian human rights activist arrested this week and currently being detained without charge.
Mr Othman, a 33-year-old human rights activist and advocate of the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign (BDS), was arrested on 22 September on his return from Norway, where he was promoting a BDS campaign.
He is currently being held in administrative detention, not being told of the charges against him. The Israeli authorities have scheduled his hearing for Tuesday 29 September in a military court.
It is believed that Othman is the first Palestinian to be imprisoned by Israel in response to BDS advocacy activity.
War on Want today accused the Israeli government of targeting and intimidating Palestinian activists who are promoting boycott and sanctions movements against Israel.
Yasmin Khan, Senior Campaigns Officer at War on Want, said: "War on Want condemns the arrest and detention of Mohammad Othman by the Israeli authorities, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release. It is unacceptable for Israel to be targeting Palestinian human right defenders with such intimidation."
Othman is involved with War on Want partner Stop the Wall, the grassroots anti-Apartheid Wall campaign, and has dedicated the last 10 years of his life to the defence of Palestinian human rights. His village, Jayyous, in the occupied West Bank, has lost most of its fertile agricultural land to Israel's illegal Wall and settlements.
For more information, please contact Yasmin Khan at War on Want on +44 (0)20 7549 0592.
Notes to Editors
1. War on Want has made representations about Mr Othman to the British Consul General in East Jerusalem, and to the Israeli embassy in London.Add Comment
24 September 2009, Latest newsFashion is going green. This trend towards eco-friendly clothing has never been more apparent than at a recent event in Italy to promote 'Ever Manifesto', a new fashion project committed to environmental sustainability. The manifesto, which was launched during Milan Fashion Week, promotes the ways in which the industry can "unify aesthetics with ethics", according to the New York Times.
Efforts to clean up the fashion industry by reducing its environmental impact are of vital importance. But a commitment to eco-friendly clothing is only half the battle. For the fashion industry to be truly ethical, it must guarantee the rights of the people at the bottom of the supply chain who make our clothes.
These goals are complementary - the drive for green fashion shares many of the same priorities as the movement to improve conditions for garment workers. Strong government regulation, for instance, is necessary to achieve both.
Whether you're a anti-sweatshop campaigner or eco-warrior, human rights activist or trade unionist, chances are that you'll agree that it's time to put an end to sweatshops once and for all.Add Comment
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